August is the point marketers must start planning and implementing seasonal marketing strategies.
Despite consumers being occupied with thoughts of barbecues, beachwear, and sunburn, it’s when summer is at its peak that brands need to begin their preparation to ensure they’re not caught out by the festive season.
This means working on internal communications, audience segmentation, attribution, email targeting, display advertising and affiliates as the areas brands need to address.
Peak Planning Board
Planning and co-ordination: August
Performance monitoring: September onwards
Ensuring transparency and collaboration across the business should underpin every brand’s Christmas preparations.
Setting up a cross-departmental ‘peak planning board’ so that each department understands their role in the build-up to Christmas should be the first step this summer.
It is especially important for marketing and fulfilment strategy teams to be in constant conversation, as seasonal campaigns and promotions can be supported to optimise turnaround of high-demand items.
Marketing teams can also help drive stock movement by creating promotions for items that are lagging behind in sales.
Insights and analysis: August to October
Personalisation: November onwards
A sophisticated approach to segmentation and targeting is required to account for changes to shoppers’ behaviour in the build-up to Christmas.
Using insights from previous years, it is possible to identify the frequency and value of a customer’s purchases, whether they buy from you throughout the year or only at Christmas, or whether the type of purchase they make changes at Christmas.
This information can help you determine what level of marketing personalisation to apply to different customers.
It may be more efficient to apply higher levels of personalisation to your communication with regular, high-value customers, but lower levels to infrequent customers who spend less or only shop with you for high-popularity Christmas-specific items.
Customer purchase path analysis: August onwards
Advanced attribution, which takes account of every touchpoint and every device, platform, or channel used by the customer during the purchasing journey, can provide a fully integrated view of customer behaviour.
This allows you to see performance levels and return on investment for individual channels and campaigns in near to real-time, which in turn opens up opportunities to adjust campaigns and divert resources on-the-fly to support successful channels or give a boost to under-performing campaigns.
Testing: August to mid-September
Monitoring and contingency: mid-September onwards
The increased volume of online gift-buying in the build-up to Christmas brings with it an increased risk of basket abandonment, as customers save products they see for comparison or purchase later.
It is important to have a clear strategy in place for following up on abandoned baskets and incomplete purchases. Including when to start offering discounts or other perks to entice shoppers back to their basket on your site.
Consider shortening your usual timeline for this follow-up, particularly as Christmas gets closer, as many shoppers will be making last-minute purchases and may be considering what is on offer from other brands at the same time.
Email-based discounting campaigns can also be a valuable platform for implementing ‘contingency plan’ campaigns in the event that revenue targets are not being met.
Planning and design: August
Booking media: September to mid-November
Launching and managing campaigns: mid-November onwards
Competition for advertising space during the build-up to Christmas is intense, and the early bird catches the worm.
High-impact display advertising formats such as homepage takeovers, billboards, pushdowns, and skins, get snapped up quickly, especially on sites with high prestige or traffic volumes.
Seasonal campaigns should be planned and space booked in September, to run from November. This means that advert design and copywriting needs to be finalised by September.
It is important to think not only about ‘tentpole’ days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but also about the January sales period. These slots also get filled up very fast by premium publishers.
Planning: August to mid-September
Securing exclusive deals: mid-September to mid-November
Partnerships go live: mid-November onwards
Partnering with affiliates can be an effective way to increase the reach and penetration of your marketing campaigns, something that is vital to customer acquisition at Christmas when so many voices are competing to be heard by the same audience.
To ensure maximum impact from your Christmas campaigns, you should begin working on partnership agreements with affiliates from September, so that they go live from November.
The popularity of online shopping in the run-up to Christmas increases every year and Black Friday has intensified and extended this period of heightened demand.
This trend isn’t going anywhere; retailers must act now to ensure they are adequately prepared.